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PMA: US vs EU

Paul Bewell
Former Program Manager at Safran Nacelles

Learning outcomes

  • The differences in the approach and approval process for PMA parts in the US and Europe
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Executive Bio

Paul Bewell

Former Program Manager at Safran Nacelles

Paul has over 25 years of experience in the aerospace supply chain. He started his career at Goodrich Aerostructures designing and building the nacelle for the A321 in 1996. In 2000, he moved to Safran Nacelles as Program Director before moving to Airbus in 2006 as a Director responsible for airline customer support. In 2009, Paul joined Parker Aerospace as Programme Manager in Toulouse before moving to GKN in 2015. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Who decides, firstly, between the MRO network and the CFM56’s network? Does the airline operator decide whether it goes to a Safran or a GE network or a third-party network?

If the operator is the owner, they decide. If the operator is operating a leased aircraft, then it depends on their relationship with the leasing company. They will agree, between them, who is going to do the overhaul.

Does a lessor, typically, prefer certain OEM networks?

It depends; it’s also a cultural and regional thing. In the Far East, typically, the airlines want engines overhauled by the OEM’s approved overhaul shop or, when they have them, their own shops. They don’t like to go out of those areas, if they can help it. North America, where there is more flexibility in the market and where people are more used to open competition, where an overhaul shop has a good reputation, it may not be an OEM shop, it may not be the operator’s own shop, there is less concern about going to a third-party.

You mentioned those parts or components that are worn. How are the contracts structured, in terms of which parts get purchased, whether they’re PMA parts, whether they’re OEM parts?

Typically, that’s agreed up front, before you get to that question. Some shops use PMA parts, but you always agree with the customer, the source of the parts that you use. In North America, the environment is a little different. PMA parts are parts that are reverse engineered and manufactured by an unapproved source. However, in order for them to be used, the FAA’s organization has to approve that that reverse-engineered part is still okay. There are checks and balances. Their checks are quite rigorous, to say the least. People have to have confidence that a part that is produced by somebody else and has been reversed engineered, is still fit for purpose.

Here in Europe, it’s a little different, because in the US, you have the FAA that manages it for the whole of the nation; it’s a very large market. The work involved to get a PMA approval, for a part, in North America, is more or less the same work as it is in Europe, but you only need to do it once for the US and have access to all the market. In Europe, it’s still more difficult than that. You have to work with a local authority, to get their approval. The ASA still doesn’t like European-wide approval of PMA. A lot of people are concerned. They would much rather have OEM equipment on their airplane, just to be on the safe side. It’s one less risk.

The only airlines that really are prepared to accept PMA parts are those where they’ve got a solid engineering organization that is able to review the parts. Some of the main airlines in Europe have big engineering organizations and they tend to accept PMA parts. Some of them even have their own. But outside those big organizations, it’s more difficult. Some of these airlines do overhaul work and maintenance work for other airlines and those other airlines will refuse to use PMA parts.

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